A business which promotes a widely discredited sound-stimulation service that plays Mozart and Gregorian chants for autistic children, and a woman who reads palms and tarot cards at Hobart’s Salamanca markets, are among providers registered for the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
Under the landmark disability scheme, businesses and organisations can register under distinct categories to provide support to disabled people in a market that will be flooded with about $22 billion in funding every year. There are few barriers to registering as a provider, short of meeting some suitability requirements, but making it in the door is no guarantee businesses will receive funding. That is up to the person with a disability who chooses providers under broad categories of support such as “therapeutic” or “assistive technology”.
One woman registered to provide development and therapeutic support calls herself a “teacher and spiritual counsellor” with expertise in the area of “esoterics”, which claims humans are “multidimensional beings” and blends apparent science with ancient spiritual belief.
The Tasmanian woman also reads tarot cards and palms at the Salamanca markets in Hobart most Saturdays. She has not yet received any referrals or funding under the NDIS.
A spokeswoman for the National Disability Insurance Agency could not be certain about proponents of the Tomatis method, which is a sound system supposedly designed to help children with autism.
The website of the Australian Tomatis Method claims the system “re-patterns the connection between the ear, the brain, the body and even the heart at the emotional level”.
A Macquarie University paper assessed the scientific evidence available for the program and declared it had “very little support for its claims, particularly those promoting it as an intervention for autism. The program cannot be recommended given the lack of research evidence of efficacy combined with the program’s extensive financial and time requirements.”
The system claims to stimulate blood and air in the ear while clients listen to music, mostly Mozart and Gregorian chants.
“Under the NDIS, all services and supports need to be effective and beneficial, meet current good practice and, importantly, meet the disability-related goals of participants,” a spokeswoman for the agency said.
“The NDIS does not consider that tarot card or palm readings, or spiritual counselling, will comply with these criteria. All funds are acquitted on a regular basis and may be subject to audit.”
The agency has previously noted, however, that it has no power under the legislation to prescribe more precisely the kind of evidence it requires to prove a treatment is beneficial.
In a submission to a review by Ernst & Young, the agency said its chief executive — now Rob De Luca — had no power to define what was considered “beneficial or effective”.
Other providers to register under the NDIS include yoga instructors and outdoor adventure companies.
Air Relax Australia boss Troy Lowrey said his product, an air-compression system for blood circulation, was typically used in sports-related settings. The company has had 13 NDIS clients so far after being registered for 12 months.
“Clients with restless leg syndrome or people who spend all day in a wheelchair have nothing but praise for the system,” he said.